The Nose Knows – So Many Hipsters: A Portland Report

Tuesday, September 28th – The reason I was able to go undefeated day 1 of Grand Prix Minneapolis was because I treated the Zendikar Sealed Deck format like a Constructed format. So what should I have done in M11?

I didn’t have much time to rest after
my excursion to Amsterdam

. I got home on Monday and returned to the grind on Friday morning. I learned my lesson in Minneapolis and took the early stand-by flights. My flights were arranged for me in such a way that I was able to travel there and back with Michael Jacob. I usually travel to events by myself, since there are only a few other people from the Michigan area who go to all of the professional level events… So it was a nice change of pace, even though Mike seemed to think I wasn’t as entertaining as a Nintendo DS.

Our flights went smoothly for once in my life, so I figured it was the start to a marvelous weekend. I’m really trying to kick it up a notch so I can lock up level 7 for next year. I didn’t get much sleep before leaving as I usually did, so I was basically awake for two days. I hate when you also get three extra hours from the time change, making a long day even longer.

I arrived in Sunny Portland at around noon, but it felt so late already. The city of Portland was pretty nice. It was like a big city, but it didn’t have the traffic or noise.

I just wanted to go to a hotel room and sleep, but I didn’t have one yet. There wasn’t anyone in the convention center for a few hours, but I eventually met up with Owen Turtenwald and crew. The hotel room debacle was resolved since Matt Boccio was nice enough to let me stay with him.

Although I was tired, I chose to do a Draft (Wescoe Check!) with Owen, Adrian Sacher, Ben Stark, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Brad Nelson. My deck ended up as a R/W monstrosity that was capable of churning out a win. LSV and Ben Stark were on my team, and were capable of winning more than I did.

I was pretty bummed that I did badly in the Draft right before the tournament of the same format. I chalked it up to a lack of sleep and didn’t worry about any more. I was starving — so Boccio, Owen, and I went to Red Robin for dinner. I don’t know if you have ever been to Red Robin before, but it is a miser’s dream. Owen and I got bottomless strawberry lemonade and Boccio got a bottomless root beer float… All for the low cost of three dollars each. The french fries that came with the meals were also bottomless. Needless to say, I would be returning later in the week.

The hotel room was very large. It had a living room, a bed room, and a bathroom. There was enough floor space for about ten people. Luckily, there were only five people in the room, and I got a bed. I got to sleep pretty early, since I had been up for so long.

I woke up feeling refreshed. Seven hours of sleep is more than I’ve ever gotten before a big tournament. I could just

the trophy in my hand already. I had a crappy breakfast from Burgerville during the walk over to the convention center. There was also a very long wait to actually get the crappy food, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you are ever in Portland.

At the player meeting, it was announced that we had over 1,300 players, which meant nine rounds of Swiss. There would also be a tenth round played after the cut on the same day. This was going to be a gigantic grind, so I was glad I’d gotten some sleep.

I received my pool and was pretty happy with it. All of the colors were pretty deep, and some were pretty awesome. Here’s what I ended up playing.

1 Ajani’s Pridemate
1 Blinding Mage
2 Cloud Crusader
1 Condemn
1 Excommunicate
2 Pacifism
1 Roc Egg
1 Serra Angel
1 Stormfront Pegasus
1 Vengeful Archon

2 Child of Night
1 Corrupt
1 Barony Vampire
1 Diabolic Tutor
2 Doom Blade
1 Mind Rot
1 Gravedigger
1 Howling Banshee
1 Nightwing Shade

1 Terramorphic Expanse
9 Swamp
7 Plains

1 Duress
2 Solemn Offering
1 Stone Golem
1 Holy Strength

I was pleased with the deck I built, but I failed to play Solemn Offering. The reason I was able to top 8 a PTQ and go undefeated day 1 of Grand Prix Minneapolis was because I treated the Zendikar Sealed Deck format like a Constructed format. In that format, the most popular deck was R/B aggro because they were the two best colors — and if your pool wasn’t strong, it was best to beat down. I built my decks to foil that strategy.

In the M11 Sealed format, I’ll usually be playing against every good artifact in my opponent’s Sealed pool. If they have a Crystal Ball or Sword of Vengeance, I’ll be the first to hear about it. This also holds true for Mind Control, because it is the best card in the format next to the Titans.

I also failed to recognize M11’s most popular archetype: U/W Fliers. This means you get to play your Mind Controls as well as consistently evasive creatures. I made the mistake of playing Roc Egg in my maindeck when there was not a single round where I faced a green aggro deck. My most popular switch in the Sealed rounds was taking out Roc Egg for a Solemn Offering.

I began the tournament with three byes, so I had time to go get some more food. There was a donut shop called “Voodoo Donut” that was a couple light-rail stops away, so I decided to go with some people. The donuts were pretty good, but we had to wait in line for about forty minutes just to get into the little shop. The city was flooded with hipsters, so I had some people that I could make fun of while I waited. Adrian Sacher joined in the fun as we pointed out just how similar they all were, even though they try to be different. It was a fun little excursion that killed some time, because I was ready to game.

We got back to the convention center, expecting it to be the third round… but it was only the end of first one. It was unreal how slowly the rounds went in this event. Each one took about ninety minutes to complete. I got into another Draft, since I was pretty sure it could be completed by the time the second round was over. I drafted another crappy deck and lost every round with it, which was

the record I wanted in Team Drafts before a Limited Grand Prix. It was an amusing draft, because Yuuya Watanabe had four Black Knights in his deck that demolished Craig Wescoe White Weenie deck. He got out all four of them by turn 4 in one game.

After about four hours, I was able to finally game.

Round 4 was against an unfamiliar name who was playing a four-color mess. His deck was B/R/G, “splashing” for Baneslayer Angel. It was no surprise that he was land-screwed both games.


Round 5 was against Josh Layne, who ended up in the top 4 — congrats to him! His deck was very powerful and included all-star hits like Fireball, Mind Control, and Sword of Vengeance. The rest of the deck was a basic U/W flying build. I boarded in both of my Solemn Offerings, but I still died to the Sword of Vengeance plus Fireball.


Round 6 was against another U/W Fliers deck. This one was much weaker, and my removal just killed everything in both games. I also got the cool combo of Child of Night and Ajani’s Pridemate. The Roc Egg just came out again in exchange for a Solemn Offering. I didn’t see a Mind Control, but he did have a Pacifism. If I have one Offering, I can at least Diabolic Tutor for it when I see a Mind Control.


Round 7 was against my first mirror match. I was quickly destroyed by a Sword of Vengeance in the first game. He didn’t draw the Sword in the next two games and was pretty mana-flooded. The guy had out Knight Exemplar and a flying knight, so the game took longer than it should have, but it turns out that he didn’t even see the interaction. When the knight “died,” I had to point out that it did not. I probably could have saved time just attacking into it with Serra Angel.


Round 8, I was paired against Josh Utter-Leyton. I was unsure of how my tie-breakers were up until that point, so I was glad to play against somebody good. His draws were pretty slow, and he put me on the play. I was pretty worried when he did that, because I had been going second every single game up until that point. My deck was

of getting a fast draw — but Corrupt, Condemn, and Diabolic Tutor aren’t fast cards. Lucky for me, my deck decided to curve out something spicy against the slow draw.

The second game was interesting because I cast Duress and took a Cancel. I saw a second Gravedigger in his hand, when he’d already cast one the turn before. I played the game so I never traded with the first Gravedigger, and the second one rotted in his hand. The game ended up being incredibly close, but I got it with Nightwing Shade and Serra Angel beatdown.


Round 9, I was pretty confident I would win because it was 11:00 p.m. at this point and everyone else was dead tired… But I’d only been playing for five rounds with two 5-Hour Energy drinks under my belt. This was another U/W Fliers deck with hits like Pacifism, Blinding Mage, and Air Servant. It wasn’t an insane deck, but it was consistent. I won pretty quickly, because I just had a lot of removal in my deck.


Everyone was so tired after this round that we just called it quits. The tournament organizer was kind enough to reschedule the tenth round for tomorrow. I was pretty confident in my Sealed deck, so I didn’t mind the extra round.

I woke up the next day feeling pretty tired, since yesterday was so long. The group headed to Starbucks for a decent breakfast.

The rounds on Sunday went much quicker. Round 10 was against a very good B/R/G deck. His mana was perfect both games, and I got land screwed in the second game. He had hits like Inferno Titan, Magma Phoenix, and Mind Control. I knew he had the Mind Control before he cast it, because in the first game he fetched two Islands from Cultivate. That seemed odd to me because he had been playing cards like Garruk’s Companion, as well as many Mountains. It seemed reasonable that he was playing light blue for Mind Control and Foresee… So I boarded in Duress to take his Cultivate before he could cast it. But I couldn’t cast the Duress in my hand, and he played Cultivate on turn 3.


At least I get to draft now! That’s all I look forward to in these tournaments anymore.

My pod had Tom Martel, Alex West, Martin Goldman-Kirst, and Eric Froehlich. This was going to be a tough pod. My deck started out pretty good when I opened a Fireball. I tried avoiding blue cards again, because everyone just fights over them. All I got were black cards, and my deck ended up being removal-heavy with a bunch of bad creatures.

1 Fireball

1 Assassinate
2 Barony Vampire
1 Bloodthrone Vampire
1 Captivating Vampire
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Disentomb
2 Doom Blade
1 Gravedigger
1 Liliana’s Specter
1 Mind Rot
1 Nether Horror
2 Quag Sickness
3 Rotting Legion
2 Sign in Blood
1 Stabbing Pain
1 Viscera Seer

3 Mountain
14 Swamp

I built this deck incorrectly. I had a Whispersilk Cloak and a Duress in my sideboard, when the Viscera Seer and Bloodthrone Vampire were just miserable in here. I needed the Cloak in here, even though I didn’t have many creatures; this deck had so few win conditions that I had to play it.

The first round was against a bad U/G deck. There were two of those archetypes right next to me and both of them were pretty bad, but big creatures were enough to kill me. He had an Overwhelming Stampede, but that didn’t matter — my big threats in the late game are three Rotting Legions. His Aether Adepts pretty much ruined me.


I beat Martin Goldman-Kirst in the second round. We were both playing R/B. His seemed better because he had four Prodigal Pyromancers… And I passed most of them to him, because I was trying to be B/G at the beginning of the draft. Most of his Crystal Ball activations just put two lands on the bottom, so I got pretty lucky to win.


The last round of the draft was
against Tom Martel in a Feature Match

. All three of the games were pretty miserable. My draws were pretty bad in the first and third game, and he was color-screwed in the second game. He finished me off by casting a Primeval Titan that ramped him into a lethal Fireball.


Okay, this was it: I had to go 3-0 in this next pod to have a shot at anything. I sat down to see who was with me, and I only recognized Martin Goldman-Kirst. If I could win any draft, it was this one. I ended up with a good B/W control deck, so I was off to a good start.

I’ll save you the suspense: I got rolled in my last two matches. I learned that I need to be more proactive in these drafts. The control decks don’t always come together.

I watched some of the top 8 matches, then headed to Red Robin again with MJ, Brad Nelson, Gerry Thompson, and Cedric Phillips. It was a good time, and much bottomless drinks were had. MJ and I then headed to the airport, since our flight was early and the light rail stops running during the night.

I know that there won’t be any more M11 Limited tournaments… but you can take the idea of treating Sealed Deck as though it were Constructed to heart in any format. If you take one thing away from this report, it’s that there is a metagame in Sealed. This will be a vital skill to have in the upcoming PTQ format. Take the time to identify the deepest and most played colors.

My next big tournament is the Michigan State Championships, so be sure to say hi!

Thanks for reading,